Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Jug Bands and Cemeteries

Saturday Merkin and I went to Louisville for a jug band festival: the National Jug Band Jubilee. The slogan is "Bringing America's happiest music back to its old Kentucky home" because jug band music started in Louisville. We started the day by going to the Louisville Cemetery (a historic African American cemetery) to see the grave of Earl McDonald, one of the greatest jug band blowers and leaders. On his grave stone they have a picture of a man blowing a jug. While we were there we also went to the unmarked grave of Sara Martin and the grave of Sylvester Weaver. Sylvester Weaver was the first blues guitarist to be recorded. Sara Martin, one of the most popular blues singers of her day, recorded with both McDonald and Weaver. For everybody who's interested in the Kentucky Derby, an unexpected find for us was the grave of the African-American jockey William Walker. Born into slavery, "Billy" rode in the Kentucky Derby four times . . . winning in 1877 on Baden-Baden.

Before we went to the jug band jubilee, our stomachs led us to Suburban Fish Fry. Then at the jubilee I learned how to play the jug at a workshop with people learning various other jug band instruments like saws, kazoos and washboards. And then all of us went on stage and played a few songs. My favorite band that performed was the Blair Street Mugwumps. The finale was Jim Kweskin & Geoff Muldaur. They had some of the members of the other bands play with them. They had the audience sign along, and here's what we sang: "Stealin', stealin'. Pretty mama, don't you tell on me. I'm stealin' back to the same old use to be." (That was originally by the Memphis Jug Band).

The newly marked gravesite of Earl McDonald . . . one of the pioneers of jug band music.

Dudeboy at the unmarked grave of the great classic blues singer Sara Martin.

Sylvester Weaver . . . was also the writer of "Guitar Rag," which was later recorded/stolen by Bob Wills and Leon McAuliffe as "Steel Guitar Rag." It has become "the seminal Western swing instrumental." McAuliffe is credited for the composition.

Dudeboy said he was posed with four Stones (one of them being the headstone of Sylvester Weaver), otherwise known as Adonis Gorr and his progeny Thing 1 and Thing 2.

The gravesite of African American jockey William Walker.

Jug workshop.

Dudeboy on stage with all of the workshop performers.

Front and center.

Geoff Muldaur and Jim Kweskin . . . both founding members of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band. The Jim Kweskin Jug Band was "instrumental" in leading a resurgence of jug band music during the 60's folk revival.

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